State after state has moved to restrict text messaging behind the wheel and other acts of distracted driving. With texting while driving bans in place in at least 30 states, including Illinois, more and more people are at last starting to get it – distracted driving is dangerous driving.
But what about bicyclists and pedestrians? Chicago has many bicyclists on the streets and there is plenty of foot traffic. What impact has the ubiquity of mobile devices had on bikers and pedestrians, and their ability to stay safe while biking on the street or crossing it as a pedestrian?
A report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) indicates that fatalities from pedestrian accidents rose during the first six months of 2010, the first such increase in four years. Although there is not just one root cause of this increase, Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the GHSA, speculates that “distracted pedestrians” – those listening to iPods, talking on cell phones, sending text messages or e-mailing – may be one of the reasons for the increase.
In discussing the issue of distracted pedestrians, New York State Senator Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) said: “We’re taught from knee-high to look in both directions, wait, listen and then cross. … You can perform none of those functions if you are engaged in some kind of wired activity.”
Sen. Kruger has introduced a bill in the New York State Legislature that would ban pedestrians from using distracting electronic devices, including music players and cell phones, while crossing the street. The bill proposes a $100 fine for those in violation of the law.
New York isn’t the only state where proposed laws aimed at distracted pedestrians or bikers are in play. Oregon and California are considering bills aimed at increasing safety as well.
Clearly there is a major difference between being distracted while driving a motor vehicle that weights several thousand pounds, on the one hand, and riding a bike or walking, on the other. It also true, however, that safety on streets and highways is everyone’s common responsibility.
Sometimes, though, no matter how safely you conduct yourself as a bicyclist or pedestrian, the negligence of a motor vehicle driver can injure you severely. If this has happened to you, or someone in your family, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in your area.